Friday, June 5, 2020

Latino Democrats demand flu vaccines for migrants after the death of a 16-year-old boy in Border Patrol custody

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) demanded yesterday that the Trump administration provide flu vaccines and enhanced medical care for detained migrants in the wake of revelations that a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy in Border Patrol custody died of the flu in May.

“This is flu season that we’re going into, and the administration has decided not to do a basic thing for people who are ill or could get ill, which is to give them a flu shot,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), the CHC chairman.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency in charge of immigration enforcement at the border, declined a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) last month to provide flu shots to every detained migrant. CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters Monday that flu vaccinations should not necessarily be implemented by CBP, which he said is only part of a “continuum” of federal agencies involved in immigrant detention.

But given the deaths of migrants in CBP custody, CHC officials are calling on the agency to act quickly. In the case of Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez, the 16-year-old Guatemalan who died in May, a nurse practitioner at the Border Patrol station diagnosed him with the flu and recommended periodic checkups to determine whether Carlos needed transfer to the emergency room.

Carlos was instead transferred to quarantine at a less-crowded nearby facility where he died, according to a report by ProPublica. CHC officials said administering flu shots to migrants as soon as they’re detained could save lives.

“This is a matter of life and death whether the administration is willing to administer this flu shot,” said Castro. But Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), an emergency room doctor, made the case for vaccinations, noting that conditions at detention centers are “a breeding ground” for the influenza virus.

THE HILL